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Ask the Hotline | The Six-Hour Meal Break Question

January 29, 2018
 
Question 
 
Please clear up some confusion for me regarding the Massachusetts meal break law. A couple of my employees insist that they should get a meal break if they work six hours. We only provide a meal break if the employee is scheduled to work more than six hours. 
 
Answer
 
To answer your question, the Massachusetts Gen Laws, Chapter 149, Section 100 reads as follows: 
Hours of work without interval for meal; duration; violation of statute
 
Section 100. No person shall be required to work for more than six hours (emphasis added) during a calendar day without an interval of at least thirty minutes for a meal. Any employer, superintendent, overseer or agent who violates this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than three hundred nor more than six hundred dollars.
 
By stating “for more than six hours,” the statute makes it clear that the employee must be required to work more than six hours to trigger the meal-break requirement.
 
But the language on the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division Web site is confusing:
 
Meal breaks
 
30 minutes for each 6 hours of work
 
Employees working more than 6 hours get a meal break (consistent with the law).
 
But right below that it states:
 
Workers have a right to at least a 30-minute meal break for each 6 hours worked in a calendar day.
 
During their meal break, workers must be free of all duties and free to leave the workplace. This break may be unpaid. Employers may require workers to take their meal breaks.
 
In support of the position taken by the statute, the AG’s wage and hour poster states: 
 
Meal Breaks M.G.L. Chapter 149, Sections 100 and 101 Most employees who work more than 6 hours must get a 30-minute meal break.  
 
If you do not have a wage and hour poster, you can order one from the AG’s Web site
 
 
The easiest way to address this with your employees is to show them the statute and the poster and say that you understand the law to mean the employee must be scheduled to work for more than six hours, not just six hours. 
 
Please contact the AIM Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277 if you have questions about this or any other HR-related matter. 
 
 
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